Markus Jooste, the ex-chief executive of embattled retail giant Steinhoff, has been reported to an elite police unit by his former company in relation to an ongoing accounting scandal.
Last year Jooste, who stood at the helm of the South African company during its rapid global expansion over the last 20 years, stepped down abruptly in December just as Steinhoff revealed “accounting irregularities”.
The 57-year-old has now been arrested by South Africa’s Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation unit, also known as the “Hawks”.
This unit is reserved for the highest tier of criminality, including corruption and organised commercial crime.
“Based on our investigations to date, we have reported the former CEO Markus Jooste to the Hawks,” Steinhoff’s acting chairwoman Heather Sonn told a parliamentary committee.
“The matter is now in the hands of the Hawks for investigation and prosecution.”
The company, which owns Poundland, Bensons for Beds and Harveys in the UK, saw share prices collapse by nearly 90 per cent as the scandal unfolded.
Since then it has been scrambling to secure funding and offload assets in order to stay afloat.
Earlier this month Steinhoff announced that financial accounts dating as far back as 2015 would need to be restated, while an investigation by PwC revealed a £5.3 billion accounting black hole – although the origins are still unclear.
Its largest shareholder and former chairman Christo Weise has sought to lay blame on Steinhoff’s accountants Deloitte for not identifying the issues before the scandal broke.
“The auditors that raised concerns last year are the same auditors that have been doing so for the last 10 years,” he said.
“So they are admitting that they have missed things. Auditors are a company’s first line of defence.”